Wednesday, April 25, 2018

Weird Thing Wednesday: Starbuck's

I'm instituting something I'd like to call, "Weird Thing Wednesday". My inspiration behind this? I have a number of quirks and oddities about me, and there's nothing better than making fun of yourself. Also, I enjoy alliteration.

Today's topic, in this maiden voyage of "Weird Thing Wednesday", is Starbuck's.

I confess, that this afternoon, I drank my first Starbuck's coffee. 

Yes, you read that right.  Before April 25th, 2018, Tracey Strother had never tasted Starbuck's coffee.

(Ironically, I just turned on Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, and had totally forgotten that Dr. Evil had invested in Starbuck's. This movie was made in 1999.  When I was 13. Sidenote: I wonder Mike Myers had more fun as: Austin Powers or Dr. Evil.  They're so different, sometimes I forget that they were both played by the same guy.)

Focus back in now. 

But Tracey, you ask, how have you gone 32 years of life without drinking Starbuck's? 

-I'm allergic to milk
-It's expensive
-I don't like coffee
      *In fact, we didn't even own a coffee pot until a friend bought us one because he was tired of not having coffee when he came over. 
-I choose to buy other items from Starbuck's when I visit, like Passion Tea Lemonade (praise Jesus!) and cake pops (hallelujah)

I know what you will ask next.  "So then, what brought you to the dark side?"

-Free samples at Target
-Remembering the Jamocha Shake from Arby's
        *This was (is?  I don't know if they still serve it.  I don't even know if Arby's is still around.  Anyone?  Do they still have the meats?) the best milkshake ever, but it is also what aggressively  helped me discover my milk allergy.  This and DQ blizzards. Ooh, those were some bad times in the Dairy Queen bathroom in Edmonton.  But I digress. 

And the last questions of course, are "What did you drink and what do you think?"

-Vanilla Mocha Frappuccino


I'll suffer for it later, it's true.  But holy cow.  If I hadn't been so anti-trendiness in high school I could have been enjoying this for years.  And also weigh more than I weigh now.  And have severe digestive issues.  You know what?  Not worth it.  But it was way better than I expected. 

And yet, the glorious drink has one major flaw. 

It's nearly impossible to spell.  And for those that know what a grammar Nazi I tend to be, this is an unforgivable sin.  If I could bring myself to shorten words like a good millennial, I would just call it a "frap" and be done with it, but that makes me cringe.  It's not "presh" to shorten words that are not that long to begin with.  JUST STOP IT. 

I'm not about to pay $5 a day for something that will tear apart my insides, but I sure as heck will be looking out for more of those Target free samples.  And you can look out for another "Weird Thing Wednesday" next week. 

Monday, April 23, 2018

Paying it Forward

Last week, our preacher mentioned the film, "Pay it Forward" in his sermon  The film is based on the idea that, rather than paying back good that is done to you, we should be proactive in looking for good to do unto others.

Now, the premise is the film is great, but the execution is extremely depressing, because at the end of the film, (spoiler alert) the sweet little boy trying to make the world a better place by being kind gets stabbed and dies.  Doesn't really leave you with the warm, fuzzy feeling that you should actually pay kindness forward.  Instead, it ends on a note of negativity and cynicism. Why take a message of such positivity and crush it at the end with a violent death?   After all, not many of us think, "Hmm, I'd like to be nice to people until one of them kills me.  That seems like a decent plan."  The ending negates the point of the film, that we should always be looking for good to do to others.

Or does it?

In the New Testament, Jesus teaches that those who follow him will be persecuted.  He promises that if you are a Christian living the way we are called to live, you will be mocked.  People will think you are weird.  We aren't supposed to look like the world around us.  If we do, we are doing life wrong.  That doesn't mean we're guaranteed death for doing good to others, but it isn't out of the question either.

What's great is that Jesus doesn't teach that works will get you into Heaven. We can never do enough good things to earn it.  It is impossible.  No amount of paying it forward or back will ever be sufficient to gain our way on our own.

So why do good, then?  Take this same idea and flip it on its head. Because you are saved, be kind to others.  Because Jesus loves you, show that love to others. Because God's grace is enough, do good to others. Be patient.  Forgive.  Let go on resentments.  You don't do good to earn your way into God's heart; you're already there.  Feel the warmth and joy that comes from that knowledge and you won't be able to help but pay it forward to others.

Even if you aren't a Christian, or if your concept of God is a little different than what I've described, if you are a friend of Bill W., you still understand what I'm talking about.  Anyone who has undergone recovery for any number of hurts, habits, or hang-ups knows that there is a power greater than ourselves that helps us become the people we are made to be.  As you finish working the 12 steps, you see that the 12th step calls you to carry the message you have received to others.  Because you have received healing, you give your testimony to others so they can have an opportunity to have the same experiences you have had.

I recently saw the movie "Wonder". It's the story of a little boy who has a facial deformity, and his first year attending school.  One of the best lines comes from one of his classmates, who declares that, "when given the choice of being kind or being right, choose kind". All of this has been on my mind because, as many of you know, I've been in recovery for codependency, anger, and food addiction for over a year now.  Recovery isn't just for drugs and alcohol, folks.  I can't go back and change my past actions.  I am currently working on step 9 in my own recovery, which is where I make amends to those I've hurt in the past.  Some of those people will refuse to meet with me or hear what I have to say.  I know that.  So I will make my amends to an empty chair, or in a letter that will never get sent.  Some of those who I do meet with won't believe or forgive me for what I've done either.  I know that too. And still others I am struggling to decide if I owe an amends to or not, because I'm too prideful and know that even if I have a small part, I feel their blame is more.  It doesn't matter. I still do my part. Because it is better to be kind than to be right, and amends is a kindness that I owe them.

Then comes the hard part: moving on.  Because once I've made my amends, it's over.  I can't dwell on it anymore.  After all, if I can believe that God forgives me for my sins, who am I to hold on to them?

I don't think it is a coincidence that the day after I heard a sermon on paying it forward, I had an opportunity to.  I drove through Starbuck's to pick up a drink for a friend (seriously, I never go to Starbuck's, which is what makes this so cool).  As I got to the pick-up window, the girl said, "Here's your drink!  The car in front of you paid for your order."  I had a choice now: keep it going or be thankful that I didn't have to spend $5.  Pretty easy choice.  I paid for the car behind me.  The girl at the window smiled and said I was the 10th car to pay it forward.  I don't know how many cars experienced the kindness, but I left feeling giddy, hopeful for humanity.

Odds are, you won't be killed for being kind (poor Haley Joel Osment).  It's much more likely that you'll make someone smile, give them a bright spot in their day, or change their life by sharing honestly.  I've said more than once that Tracey Strother is a much better person than Tracey Allen ever was.  Tracey Allen did a lot of crappy stuff.  I can't go back and fix the mistakes I made in my youth, but I can move on knowing that I live with joy and kindness in my heart, and will live the rest of my life paying it forward to others.  I don't want anyone to live in darkness, depression, anger, fear, addiction, abuse, or pain. So, here I am, being honest and vulnerable in the hopes of helping someone else.

I'm just paying it forward.  And hoping not to get stabbed.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Return of the Mack

You know, as I was writing my title, I realized that the last time I came back from a long hiatus from blogging, I named my first post after an Eminem song.  Now I'm going even more old school to;with  Mark Morrison.  Clearly, when I think about writing, I think about rap, hip hop, and R&B.  Interesting. 

A couple of weeks ago, my brother-in-law, Patrick, called me.  We talked about a lot of things, including my daughter, Brooklyn's decision to be baptized recently.  Patrick is a mission-minded Christian with his eyes always on others and how to serve.  When he called me, he said that God wanted him to encourage me to go not give up on the passions of my childhood. 

No one has every really called me up to say, hey, I think God wants me to tell you something, but I certainly believe that it's possible.  Once, a few years ago, one of my students' mom's died. Not long after, I had a dream about her mom in a field of flowers, walking down a hill.  I had never met her mom.  I didn't know what she looked like. Still, in my dream, I knew this was her mom.  So, I told my student about this dream of mine.  Why not, right?  Long story short, she believed that I had actually seen her mother in my dream, and that this was God's way of telling her not to be sad, to believe that her mom was in a better place.  Point being, when it comes to people I know delivering messages they feel are from God, I'll buy it.  Weirder things have happened. 

As I listened to Patrick continue, he mentioned that he has a friend who works in the Christian film industry, and how he would love to get us together and talk.  I stumbled over my next words a bit, because his words sounded so foreign. Film?  Why was he talking about film?  Oh, right.  When he and I first met, I wanted to be a director. I had at one point planned to attend film school at USC.  After all, movies are my thing.  I married a guy who keeps track of how many movies we've watched together, when, where, and who with.  It serves as a history for our entire relationship. We just build a home theater in our new house. We own every Academy Award Best Picture.  We watched every single Disney animated classic in order, reviewing every one, before we left for a trip to Walt Disney World. We have over 800 movies and served as a makeshift rental service for friends and neighbors in college. Our little storefront apartment even had a name: B and T DVD.  It didn't cost anything to rent from us, but you had to write your name and what you took in our rental log, or else we'd never remember where our films went.  MOVIES ARE MY THING. 

Still, when Patrick talked about my childhood passions and film in the same breath, I realized how wrong it was.  I may have always had a love for movies, but the instant I thought about a childhood passion to continue pursuing, it wasn't film: it was writing. 

When I was in 4th grade, we had an assignment to write an autobiography.  It was to be truth up until 4th grade and then a prediction of what the rest of life would be like from there.  It was pretty clear where reality ended and fantasy began in my tale.  My fourth-grade self predicted that I would be an unmarried graduate of the University of Alabama with two adopted children.  I was going to be a successful children's author, then a 60-ish-year-old alternative radio DJ, then someone who went to jail for murder (but it was totally self-defense and my kids busted me out of jail and explained the misunderstanding to the judge, so it's all good). 

My childhood passion is writing.  It's still my passion.  But I see others who are better at it than me, and get discouraged.  I let life get to me, and I become depressed and stay silent.  I tell mini-stories on Facebook and people encourage me to write stories about my children, who bring hilarity into my life daily.  I listen, get writer's block, believe the lie that no one will want to read what I want.  Who will care?  Other times, I think about getting back into blogging and get scared.  What if I run out of stories?  What if I tell them all online and then want to write a book but there's nothing left to say? 

And yet, my childhood passion is writing.  And God is telling me not to give up on my childhood passion. 

So, it's the return of the mack.  With hopefully lots more to come.